27 06 07

Pink, Black, Pirate: Taking Stock of Rostock

Rostock: a new start for the European antiglobalization movement

Alex Foti

Not since Genoa a countersummit has generated so much hope for the renewal of the heretic left and rekindled anticapitalist energies in Europe and beyond. Although the G8 is by now a quarrelsome club wielding little power, split as it is between Europe and America on the issue of climate change and diminished by the anachronistic exclusion of China and India from the clique of economic powers, Rostock-Heiligendamm 2007 has proved being a boost for global protest against corporate globalization, especially in Europe, after the relative decline in the movement’s ability to mobilize in the aftermath of  the neo-con invasion of Irak and the fundamentalist and repressive responses it has engendered everywhere. The reasons for this are partly conjunctural, partly structural: Since 2001, Rostock has been the first G8 summit held in continental Europe, arguably one of the two heartlands of the global left (the other being Latin America, of course). The summit was organized by the core country of Euroland, Germany, whose conservative Chancellor presided both over the G8 and the EU, in its Eastern, formerly communist half, thus for the first time in the new setting of post-cold-war Europe, where history has accelerated incredibly over the last two decades, unlike in Western Europe, where gerontocratic and backward-looking tendencies still dominate the political debate. Furthermore, since the shocking neonazi pogroms of “Asylanten” of 1992, Rostock had become the negative symbol of the xenophobic and nativist winds sweeping across Europe. No longer. The Rostock protests of June 2-4 have now turned the Hanseatic city  into a symbol of anticapitalist resistance. Also, after years of relative dominance by the discourses and practices of Southern European movements (mainly Italian, Spanish, French), Rostock has marked a shift toward Northern and Eastern European movements, more in line with the dynamic fault-lines at the heart of current European politics. Finally, Rostock marked a possibly irreversible schism between the generation grown on the barricades of Prague, Gothenburg, Genoa, Paris, Barcelona, Copenhagen, and the more respectable side of the anti-globalization movement, like the official social-communist left and NGOs such as ATTAC and Greenpeace: the spirit of Rostock is not the spirit of Porto Alegre.

In early May all the BlockG8 convergence centers, as well as apartments of activists in Berlin and Hamburg were raided by the federal criminal police under the ignominious charges of “terrorist conspiracy to overthrow the G8 summit”. Behind this vulgar witch-hunt, was the christian-democrat minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Schäuble, promptly rechristened Stasi 2.0 by activists. But the German movement was not intimidated, and reds and greens in Parliament protested the suspension of the Rechtstaat operated by the Merkel government. In fact, the repressive strategy of pre-emption backfired, as it redoubled the resolve of activists in Germany and around Europe to make it to Rostock and Heiligendamm no matter what. In the days immediately before the Rostock general demonstration of June 2nd, Taz, the voice of the post-68 leftist generation, published a graph charting the forces taking part in the gegenG8 protests, actions and blockades. Leftist groups were classified according to two axes: reformist/radical on one side, and verticalist/horizontalist on the other. Well, I argue that only the radical-horizontalist combination embodies the spirit of Rostock (indeed, the spirit of Seattle), since those were the groups that organized the camps, resisted the police, braved the actions, and (wo)manned the Heiligendamm blockades. In fact, that region of the graph contained the two networks that were the backbones of anti-G8 protest: the Interventionist Left, the autonomist and antifascist force that drove the pink cartel “Make Capitalism History” (, and the anarchoglobalists of Dissent (, the only – like it or not – veritable expression of transnationalism from below that exists today within the global movement against neoliberal globalization and neoconservative militarism. After the rioting of June 2 at the Rostock harbor, triggered by the incursions of the police evidently dissatisfied by the peaceful demo that had taken place, ATTAC condemned the Autonome (black bloc for the rest of the world) who had thrown rocks at robocops and Pinochet-style water cannons, but the Interventionist Left, who nevertheless had ATTAC members and people close to Die Linke in their ranks, steadfastly refused to do so. Among the left-leaning press, only Junge Welt did not stigmatize the actions of what Italians call the noglobal generation. On June 3, Taz myopically titled “Never Again Another Rostock”, thereby excommunicating virtually every demonstrator under 40. Not only the black bloc was huge that day (more than 5,000 people of mixed gender and nationality: a Black Sea by the Baltic) and was at the head at the demo, but most of the demonstrators in the sandy plain next to the Move Against G8 concert stage supported materially and morally the fierce resistance (the sky was clouded with stones and bottles) put up by black-clad protesters, who repeatedly forced the riot cops to retreat. When after a few hours of rioting more than a dozen water cannons were pulled in and we got fully encircled with only water behind our shoulders, antifa and intervenionist leftist trucks interposed themselves between protesters and police. There was a silent, tense standoff. Then Bob Marley blared from the soundsystems and protesters started dancing on armored vehicles, completely disorienting the exhausted riot cops: after hours of chaotic clashes, the battle of Rostock was finally over. Many boys with black hoodies, sunglasses and baseball hats then returned to the camp with pink flowers in their hair, while most of the girls had their hair dyed shocking pink. What I mean by this is that violent resistance is just an element of the ecosystem of protest unveiled at Rostock. Black resistance and pink blockades go hand in hand, and pink clowns were defended by black anarchists when the police roughed them up during the actions and demonstrations: pink and black are complementary and not substitutes, like many, including myself, were led to believe in the past few years. Furthermore, the black sweatshirt has become a universal symbol of anticapitalistic self-identification, even among people that would never throw a bottle: it simply means you’re on the side of Ungdomshuset, Mehringhof, Rote Flora, Köpi, and other nodal European social squats currently threatened with eviction and persecution. Urban rebellion is spreading across many European cities because there is a widespread feeling that the whole anarcho-punk, radical-autonomist, pink-queer way of life could be wiped out if we don’t put up major resistance against police repression and the assorted forces of bourgeois and clerical respectability.

Pink, Black, Pirate: an experiential chromatography

The kaleidoscope of emotions and inspirations swirling in Rostock, in its demos, actions, camps, media and art centers, cannot be easily described. It was a manic rush, an incredible show of radical strength and post-national solidarity. To conclude this essay, I’d like to touch on symbolic aspects of political iconography and vexillology that in my opinion point to future developments in the manifestations of social dissent by the European radicalized youth. The major presence of antifa red&black and antimperialist red groups notwithstanding, the most innovative expressions seen at Rostock were pink, black, pirate. Pink was omnipresent in Rostock, in the feminist, queer, and downright heretic (i.e. pinko) sense of the word. Make Capitalism History had a pink star as symbol and the actions at the Bombodrome (a military base) sported a pink&black antifa flag and pink pyramids. At the June 2 demo, the much-applauded Euromayday contingent of superheroes against precarity carrying balloon-signs and organized by Fels (Für eine linke Strömung – “For a Leftist Current”) and Die Überflüssigen (The Superfluous), the cross-metropolitan activist network against welfare counter-reforms, carried a big pink banner saying: “Let's make the g8 precarious, flexifight vs. the new world order!”. The June 4 demo to assert the rights of migrants, stop deportation and shut down detention centers for sans papiers waved a pink flag with a black star and people in front carried a huge pink banner over their heads saying “Don’t have sex with a nazi”. The fantastic actions performed by the Clown Army (pink and green camouflage, harlequin flag) and the pink samba bands (silver jolly roger with two crossed swords over pink flag) were the most evident expressions of this political tendency that has progressed immensely since the pink block emerged in London and Prague around 2000 and then spread to all culturally deviant Europe. The Queer Barrio in Reddelich advertised by a poster with pink bunnies, and the Pink Rabbits providing the alert system when cops showed up at the Rostock camp were other instances of the flowering of pink in Rostock-Heiligendamm. Pirates and piracy are immensely popular among kids and youngsters and were another defining chromatic feature of Rostock’s protests. As the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise scores high at the box office, Pirate Bay is bankrupting Hollywood with its free p2p filesharing service. Pirates have traditionally been about challenging state sovereignty (see Marcus Reddiker and Hakim Bey) in order to build post-sovereign forms of self-government based on horizontal networking and mulatto camaraderie: Tortuga as the first modern autonomous zone. True to form, the Jolly Roger was waving on many tents and in all the actions, often either black-on-pink or pink-on-black. And Sankt Pauli soccer supporters with their black and jolly-rogered sweatshirts descended en masse to Rostock from Hamburg to join the fray.

In Rostock, we understood that we have been left alone to build an anticapitalist opposition in Europe, that the radicalized and precarized twentysomethings and thirtysomethings from all the cities of the continent, both East and West, must bear the brunt of the securitarian Europe put in place by Merkel, Sarkozy, and EU government and business elites. But the future is unwritten and our black-and-pink pirate flag waves higher and higher, while the paler and paler red and green colors of the middle-aged European left recede into irrelevance, due their timidity and pusillanimity. The movement managed to fight back against police intimidation and went on to block the summit. At this stage, it seems like we are the only hope left versus the undemocratic system of unified markets and coordinated policing European élites have in store for us:

“A, Anti, Anticapitalista:
no border no nation, stop deportation,
no nation no border, fight law and order!”

Alex Foti